“On Our Side!” A Devotional on the Atonement

Atonement“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
—1 John 2:1-2

When I was a child my siblings and I worshipped with our parents and went to Sunday school before worship. I don’t remember much about Sunday school, but I have many powerful recollections of worship.

We were Episcopalians and so worship was out of the old Book of Common Prayer, with its grand 16th century language, a good bit of which I didn’t understand. Nonetheless, my faith was shaped and formed by those words that washed over me from Sunday to Sunday.

The passage above from 1 John was often read in the service. I wasn’t exactly sure what the passage meant, but somehow I knew it meant Jesus was on my side, even amidst whatever sins might befall my little life. It was a comforting thought.

Perhaps that is why since I began to study theology I have had a preoccupation with the meaning and significance of Jesus’s cross and atonement. I have had three study sabbaticals at ancient British universities on the subject and written a book about it. I know the ins and outs of the various theories and the criticisms and objections to them.

After all that study I still find that my childhood trust that Jesus is on my side is at the heart of what it means. That God is for us and not against us. The atonement is not something that Jesus does for God, or that God did to Jesus. It is the great reconciliation that God in Christ accomplished for us, and not just for us, but for the whole world that God so loves. I call that good news!

Prayer: Loving God, may the power of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ bring healing to your broken world.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for July 19, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: “The Crucifixion” from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthius Grunewald)

Grilled Hoisin Sauce/lime juice/Sambal Olek marinated shrimp

shrimpWe often grill shrimp in the summer for a quick dinner. I have no single recipe, but many of my variations utilize the wonderful fresh flavors of Asia.

Here’s a marinade that people seem to enjoy:

1 TBS Hoisin Sauce

Juice of ½ of a lime

1 TSP hot pepper sauce. I like Sambal Olek or Sriracha sauce, but you can use Tabasco or Franks’s

1 TSP peanut oil

1 TSP sesame oil

1 TSP good soy sauce

Whisk it all together and marinate your cleaned and deveined shrimp for no more than a half an hour.

Thread the shrimp on skewers.

Prepare a hot fire. Cook the shrimp 3 or 4 minutes to a side.

Serve over rice or (as in this photo) lovely cold sesame noodles.

(Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2016)

I finally got to hear my new baptismal hymn!

BaptismI wrote the baptismal hymn text “Come here by the waters” early last year, and though several pastors have told me they have used it in worship, I had never heard it sung by a congregation until this morning.

We worshipped this morning at the church in RI where my daughter, Rebecca, is pastor. She administered five baptisms, and they sang my hymn. She has chosen it before, but never when I was present.

She made a clever move with it that I hadn’t thought of. She divided the first two verses and the final two, singing the former before the baptisms and the latter right after. This makes sense because the first two are invitational (“come bring us your child) and the latter two are blessings (Bless us with your presence, your Word, and your power) and doxologies. Here are the words.

Come Here by the Waters

Come here by the waters, come bring us your child.
We’ll call on God’s Spirit, so loving and wild.
These people and parents will speak their firm vow.
This child full of blessing belongs to Christ now.

Your promise enduring will follow her* days,
And lead to a life filled with service and praise.
You’ll bless her** and keep her** and always be there,
Through life’s many changes you’ll watch her with care.

Bless us with your presence, your Word, and your power,
That we may be faithful in every new hour.
Let church be a place that is brimming with love,
And bless these dear children with grace from above.

We praise you and thank you for all you provide,
For blessings and graces that reach far and wide.
Praise Father, praise Son, and the Spirit divine,
Both now and forever, and far beyond time.

(*or his, or their) (** or him, or them)

Tune: Cradle Song 11.11.11.11.

© Richard L. Floyd, 2015

(To learn more about this hymn, and for both accompaniment and melody line reproducible music go here. Photo: R.L. Floyd, 2016)

“Her name was Grace” Is God’s Love Unfair?

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“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:8

My Mom’s older sister outlived her by forty years. She never had children, but she doted on my brother and sister and me.

One of her abiding principles was fairness. If she gave something to one of us, she would make sure she gave something equivalent to all of us. She was fair.

Children learn to spot unfairness pretty quickly. “That’s not fair!” can be heard on any playground, and rightfully so, since fairness is an important part of what makes any society workable, be it the small society of a school playground or the large one of a nation.

So it was that many who heard Jesus’s teachings were scandalized by his assertion that the divine economy works on another principle. It is all about grace, which by definition is unfair, because the recipients of the gift are undeserving.

Recall his parable of the workers in the vineyard? Jesus says the ones who came late will get paid the same as the ones who worked all day. “That’s not fair!” Try explaining that policy to either union or management.

The waiting father runs out to greet his prodigal son and throws him a big party. “That’s not fair!”

Paul wrote to the Romans, “While we still were sinners Christ died for us.” So is God’s love unfair? You bet it is, and it’s a good thing too, for who among us deserves such love? Even my aunt understood this good news. After all, her name was Grace.

Prayer: Loving God, we thank you that you run to greet us even when we have run away from you.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for June 4, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: “The Laborers in the Vineyard” by Jacob Willemsz.)

“Known knowns, known unknowns,” and the New Testament

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The good folks over at the Babylon Bee, a Christian satirical site, posted a gem of a fake article today called “Historical-Critical Scholar Doubts Authorship Of Paper He Wrote,” which comically captures some of the dubious certainties that sometimes come out of the New Testament studies combine.

The article quotes the fictitious Dr. Gunther Burg of Yale questioning the authenticity of an article he himself had written. Continue reading

Berkshire Lyric Chorus will sing Mozart Requiem at Tanglewood on Sunday

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Here’s a special event for you on Memorial Day weekend. The community chorus I sing in will be performing this:

On May 29 at 3 p.m. the 100 voice Berkshire Lyric Chorus, accompanied by a full orchestra, and joined by a stellar solo vocal quartet will sing the great Mozart Requiem at Tanglewood’s Seiji Ozawa Hall . Don’t miss this masterpiece of the choral literature and a work of deep conviction that was Mozart’s final opus as he was dying in 1791. Continue reading

“Out of the Mouths of Babes” A Daily Devotional on Psalm 8:2

“Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. -—Psalm 8:2

BabesIn our family “out of the mouths of babes” was proverbial, expressed when any wisdom or insight, even unintentional, came from one of the youngest members. Here’s an example: A married couple, bickering in the kitchen, was astonished when their young child walked in on them and said, “You should get counseling.” Out of the mouths of babes.

When my own children were very young our mealtime often had the feeling of a manic improvisational comedy troupe. Beverages were spilled with alarming regularity. One time my son turned to his little sister, and asked, “How do you know everything?” She quickly answered, “I don’t know!” Out of the mouths of babes. Continue reading